Review of DOCTOR WHO Season 5 (that’s New Series numbering, it’s actually Season 31 overall).
I re-watched this season, the first with Matt Smith as the eponymous Doctor and Steven Moffat as show runner to see if my opinion of it changed any.
And I have to say it didn’t.
Overall, outside of the quite compelling scoring, I still find the season dreadfully flawed, for two main reasons. The first is the companions.
Doctor Who is only as good as the companions/writing, and just as Ecleston’s years were hurt by the character of Mickey, and the Baker and Davidson years hurt by the character of Adric, the Matt Baker Doctor is hurt by the Dawson’s Creek/Smallville annoying soap opera antics of the companions Amy Pond and Rory.
I know some people are found of the Amy Pond character, but having watched all of season 5, she is, to me, like fingernails on a chalk board.
Largely it’s a combination of the pouty, annoying way she is written and the pouty annoying way she plays the character. More the latter than the former. As even in scenes where she is saying nothing, just supposed to be looking meaningfully, I find her among the most annoying things I’ve ever seen. Give me back Martha Jones or Rose Tyler any-day.
That said there were moments where she didn’t annoy me in season 5 (or more precisely, gave a performance that did something other than annoy me), most notably the 2nd episode of the season ,THE BEAST BELOW, where the Amy character saves the day in a way. A nice bit of storytelling, and cutting down on the annoying poutiness Karen Gillan tends to do, rather than act.
But largely I found her annoying, and add the Cory character, played by Arthur Darvill, to that already uninteresting dynamic, and the show becomes exponentially annoying.
Which leads me to the 2nd flaw of the season. Steven Moffat’s writing. Steven Moffat is a great writer when on his game, episodes like BLINK and THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE showing the writing chops that got him the job of Show Runner, replacing Doctor Who Resurrectionist Russell T. Davies. However this season he gets away from what are his strengths, and tries to beat Russell T. Davies at his game; of large universe ending threats.
Which tends to get old, after a while. Russell T. Davies himself playing that card one time too many, till by his last story, THE END OF TIME , it just came off as tired, and forced, and a chore.
So Moffat trying for that epic overarching universe ending scope in season 5, just did not work for me.
The small intimate stories in season 5 were fine, but those were few and far between, and most of the season was given over to this crack of time Storyline, that I thought was largely rubbish through most of season 5.
BEAST BELOW Grade B+
THE TIME OF ANGELS Grade B. A really strong first half, with a great cliffhanger. But the 2nd part is a letdown, exhibiting the diminishing returns of more is less. One weeping angel in the Season 3 episode BLINK, brilliantly directed by Hettie MacDonald, was scary, but here an army of Weeping Angels are just… boring and a disappointment. And the director fails to use the conventions that Hettie MacDonald devised to make this conceit… scary. It shows Directors are not interchangeable, and when you get a great one like Hettie MacDonald you should keep using her. Particularly on as iconic and fragile an idea as Weeping Angels.
VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR- Grade B. An intimate, standalone episode.
THE LODGER- Grade B-.
Those 4, standalones primarily, are the highlights of season 5. The remaining episodes I would chuck with the bath water. Your mileage may vary.
Moffat when on his game is great at small intimate tales, that have less to do with saving worlds then saving one person. His stories more fable than scifi, tales as much of sleeping beauties and spells and ogres and handsome knights, as anything to do with space faring threats.
There’s an immediacy, a personalization to Moffat’s writing that comes through in places, However the season finale fails to be one of those places. The finale stumbles over its own, “let me outdo the last universe ending threat” pattern.
And did I mention I really can’t stand the companions?
So the whole season hinges on you caring for Amy Pond, and accepting the “tell don’t show” greatness of the Doctor, that he does nothing this season to earn.
Matt Smith is an okay Doctor, Moffat has written some great dialog for him, but as stated he’s encumbered by the writing of the companions. I’d like to see a season with him, with non-annoying companions ( I overall like River Song– though the ‘spoilers’ mantra, gets a bit old), and more intimate, less hyperbole ridden universe saving episodes.
Overall a season worth viewing free or if you can rent it cheap, but not one I would suggest buying. Here’s hoping Season 6 when finally available in box set rental, is an improvement. Final grade for DOCTOR WHO: SEASON 5 is C-.